Day 129: 6 October – Back on the bike again

Author: Mrs A

From: Clifton Lake

To: Australind (just north of Bunbury) – for map see ‘Where are we now?’

Distance driven: 60 km

Distance cycled: 26 km

It was a lovely peaceful night’s sleep and we woke to sunshine streaming in through the trees, kookaburras, ring neck parrots and magpie larks all around us. It just so happened there was a bakery about 100 metres from where we camped – Mr A wondered whether he had woken up in heaven as he trotted over for a look and found freshly baked pies and sausage rolls. No prizes for guesssing what we had for brunch before we headed off on our way.

We drove south a short way south, just a 45 minute journey to Australind, before setting up at our caravan park. Australind was one of Western Australia’s earliest settlements, named in the 1800s as a combination of Australia and India – in the hope the two countries would maintain a prosperous trade of cavalry horses and food.

Once set up we jumped on our bikes for an explore. I decided it was about time I stopped being lazy (breathing much better now, voice still channelling my inner porn star i.e husky!) and joined Mr A for some activity. Our first visit was to a jetty which juts out into the Leschenault Estury.  The wind coming off the water was icy cold, and after admiring the view and many black swans, we rushed back to put on more clothes. 

More appropriately dressed, we decided to follow the cycle lanes into Bunbury, the nearest large settlement. For the most part, it was a lovely ride, just a couple of kilometres were alongside a very busy road. Bunbury impressed us. It is clearly a city (they call it a city, we would say small town) with a great deal of money flowing into it. The public areas are beautifully landscaped and shared pathways are everywhere, weaving behind dunes and past the large modern houses with incredible views out to sea.

Bunbury is surrounded by water – rivers, harbours, beautiful beaches lining the ocean front. 

We rode along to the black and white striped lighthouse, then around to the helter-skelter-lookout up on the hill. We climbed up the 91 steps to admire the full view.

On our return cycle we were entertained by some bottle-nosed dolphins in the estury chasing fish in the shallow water, creating a fabulous wake behind them, and a black shouldered kite hovering over the nearby bushland, hunting its Friday evening meal.

Talking of Friday evening meal. We Andersons are having a wild one. Already in PJs by 6pm, we are sipping on a delicious Central Otago Squealing Pig Pinot Noir, which (if there is any left) will accompany our fish curry dinner. Another fine day in WA.

Oh and Miss Tassie? She enjoyed a day catching up on sleep after yesterday’s busy day of travel.

Day 128:  5 October – Perth in the rear view mirror

Author: Mr A

From: Perth

To: Clifton Lake

Distance: 128km driven

The day started early, it was wheels on the road by 7am as we needed to drop the Zone off to have a new en-suite door fitted, courtesy of the manufacturer. We’d had trouble with it not securing properly, but they keep innovating their build and now have a more robust model. They had kindly sent one across the continent for us. We also have had some custom made privacy screens made up  – the off the shelf models are too short for our high clearance off-road warrior. 

So caravan dropped off, we had a day to fill. A breakfast spot by the beach, a mushroom medley for madam (supposedly dairy free – the after effects proved not) and kippers for me (oh yes) and we were set up. A final top-up trip to T2 was called for, one simply can’t travel without some fine herbal and fruit teas. We did stop at a park to give Tassie a stretch, but it was rather too open and dogified for her taste. 

Then we get the call from Zone, rather sheepishly they tell us the door has been damaged in transit. Not their fault, it was packed well. Damm…we decide to get it fitted anyway, and they immediately offer to get a new one shipped to a destination of our choice fiurther down the coast. Rather wonderful of them. So more delays, the privacy screens wont be ready until 4pm. Anyway its 4.30pm before we leave the big city behind and point our nose south once again.

We have mixed feelings about leaving. We are both keen to get on the road again, but keep seeing things we didn’t get around to visitinthere. No visit to Rottnest, no cycling along the Swan River. And we are leaving our newbie friends Andy and Caroline. Such are the dilemmas of doing the big lap in 6 months! Will there be a next time? 

Catherine had found us a free camp for the night right outside a pub. Sounded good to me. We pulled up at the Clifton Lake Tavern, and I checked with a friendly manager all was good. Five minutes later (I love that about caravanning) and we were sauntering over for a very nice pub meal and a pint. 

The security was tight. Fortunately we had left Tas all snuggled up in the Zone. 

Day 127: 4 October – Marge Simpson can still have fun

Author: Mrs A

From: Lane Poole Reserve, Nr Dwellingup

To: Forrestfield, Perth

Distance: 95 km

We made our final return to Perth today, arriving around lunchtime to undertake multiple loads of washing, and clean up the mobile apartment before some final repairs tomorrow and heading south on our continuing adventure.

It was an uneventful journey north back to Perth, and a busy afternoon cleaning and shopping, before showers and changing for our highlight of the day, our farewell dinner with Caroline and Andy.

We’d booked a nearby restaurant with fabulous reviews, Quills. It turned out to be a great choice, delicious food and wine, and vouchers from our caravan park gave us two free dinners too.

We had a great evening, and I am so sad to be saying farewell to these new friends, who I know could become second family given the chance. I hope we get to meet again. I had my first ever (decaf) espresso martini for dessert…not quite Singapore Grand Hayatt Martini Bar quality, but ok for my first try….

Andy and his whisky creme brûlée….

Mr A’s amazing desert….

A fine evening with lots of laughs had, stories told, and adventures relived, all with my Marge Simpson husky voice…the things we do!

By the way – our wine selection for the evening was delicious – a Margaret River Vasse Felix – Cathy Gadd, you’d be proud…We will be there next week in person to try the latest selections – all for medicinal reasons, of course!

Day 126: 3 September – A walk in the woods – from a feline perspective 

Author: Miss T 

Distance walked: 600 metres

I thought it was about time a feline perspective was provided into this narrative. I’ve a few words to say on how well my staff (yes…let’s be honest here) are performing on this caravan caper. If you’ve been paying attention to me (and you’re only human, so you must have – the cute Burmese you’ve seen adorn these posts recently ) I’ve joined them on their “Big Lap”. It’s not the kind of lap I was thinking about when it was first discussed,  but admittedly it does have some upsides. 

Today, for instance, I was encouraged to take a walk in the woods. Now I don’t mind a bit of a wander, nothing too rushed mind you, every bush and tree provides a unique ofalcatory experience that should be savoured like a fine piece of raw minced steak (if you thought cats like fish, do your homework). 

So this lead thing is a bit of a chore, a nice colour though, pink, so highlights my blue coat – don’t you dare call me “grey”. I just try to ignore that I’m actually attached to something and head off in random directions so the staff don’t start to get ideas about them being in charge. 

So off we set with the more agile staff member in tow, even SHE is struggling to keep up with my dodging and weaving around some prickly bushes. Its important to keep them on their toes. It’s rather a pleasant day, a few not-very-bright potential targets of my sleuth-like hunting skills are giving away their location by chirping and hopping about. I give them a stern look, but to be honest I’m being rather too well fed to make much of an effort. Anyway the other member of staff comes out to meet us, HE has his usual stomping gait and scares everything away. Honestly, I’ve seen labradors turn up with more grace. 

I did let HIM cuddle me last night though, as it was a trifle chilly, plus I did feel slightly guilty about how as soon as SHE came back from some jaunt, I immediately transferred my valuable affections from one sleeping mat to the other. Even though SHE arrived after a night away smelling like the place where I get prodded and poked with a needle every so often. But at least SHE doesn’t make that growling noise when  asleep. With HIM I sometimes wonder in the night if I’ve been thrown into a kennel full of boxers with bad colds.

So all things being considered, I am quite enjoying the change of air here and the chance to get out and about. The big windows they have installed for me in this particular caravan allow an appropriate amount of sunshine in, and I’ve got a pretty good rotation worked out now around the various sunny patches and soft furnishings. My water is freshened up whenever I give them a particular look, apparently they have big tanks of it all ready for me. I have also taken rather a liking to the outdoor chair that HE has been trying to sit in. Silly man thinks he’s going to get that back. Ah well…humans…let them dream…

The staff did go out today, thank goodness, leaving me in peace for a change, coming back rather too quickly (for my sleep schedule) 4 hours later. I communicated my displeasure with the withering look I am rather pleased to have honed. I feel sure they would have got the message…DO NOT DISTURB UNLESS YOU HAVE TREATS. 

Well I do need to get back to my feather pillow, but let me know if you would appreciate further feline perspective on this Big Lap thing. I’ll try and cram it into the brief time I spend during the day with my eyes open, not feeding, eating or being adored.  Meanwhile the staff are about to have their dinner, bless them…some kind of pizza thing the big bloke got all excited about. 

Day 126: 2 October – South West WA brings out its best

Author: Mrs A

Location: Nanga Brook, Lane Poole

Distance hiked: 10 km

A perfect blue sky greeted us as we awoke this morning, and promise of a fine day ahead. Many of our fellow campers had either left last night or were packing up to depart this morning, so it was very peaceful around camp. We debated whether to try a kayak on the Murray, but decided it would be more effort than enjoyment, given I am not yet up to doing anything too strenuous. We also considered a mountain bike ride, but rejected this for the same reason.

And so we donned hiking boots and set off into the forest along a relatively flat trail, part of the Munda Biddi track Mr A cycled a few weeks back. The perfume from the newly flowering Wiry Wattle (Acacia) and the Whitewood Hopbushes was absolutely overpowering, especially when mingled with the pungent smell of pine needles from the Jarrah forest. The sun shone through the trees, and birds flitted around in the branches, accompanying us with their song. Wildflowers in pinks, purples, oranges and yellows lined the path, almost as though they were planted by hand, often climbing over the spiky grass trees like a flower arrangement. Flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos flew through the canopy, and a pair of colourful kookaburras landed on a branch just in front of us, one with a snake in its beak, smacking it dead against the limb before chomping it down. Nature in action.

Just a 90 minute drive from the centre of Perth, this is a truly stunning area, and should be on everyone’s must do list – whether for hiking, bird watching, kayaking or just relaxing in stunning surroundings.

We didn’t intend to walk 10 km, but before long we were nearing the Murray River, so I insisted we reach it as our halfway point. We made our way down there, but it wasn’t lined with friendly bolders inviting us to relax a while, as I had hoped, instead it was a slippery, steep, black muddy bank. Mr A duly demonstrated how slippery it was, as he slid down into the water. Oops. By that point we had walked around 5 km and my throat was feeling pretty hoarse and sore – I could barely laugh, but managed it inwardly – I’m sure someone somewhere would pay a lot to be caked in genuine Murray River mud, but Mr A was not impressed!

On returning to camp I collapsed with a cold drink in a camp chair, my legs feeling like jelly. It’s amazing what a bloodstream full of poison (CT scan dye, general anaesthetic and who knows what else!) can do to your health – a couple of weeks ago I would have easily added another 10 km to our hike. At the moment the breathing is not yet brilliant either, swelling still there in my airway and my vocal chords – I did sound a little like Darth Vader on the short hills we climbed. Hopefully as the week progresses I will feel the benefit.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent chilling out in the sunshine, reading and drinking tea with Tassie asleep  – sharing her time between Mr A’s my lap, followed by hot showers and dinner of chilli-con-carne and a glass or two of red.

Day 125: 1 October – A two BBQ day is a good day

Author: Mr A

Distance cycled (by Mr A only!): 22 km

Distance walked: 4km

I snuck out early for a quick ride in the woods. It’s a magnificent morning, and I forgot my camera, so use your imagination. The trail undulates through the tall stands of jarrah and marri trees, the sun is piercing through the canopy and sending shafts of light down onto the  trail. No one else is around – you can only hear the sounds of the birds and in the distance the river washing over the rocks. I decide I better head back to check if Mrs A is awake and ready for me to charge up the Weber.

I take the view that a cooking a BBQ breakfast of eggs, sausage, mushrooms, beans and toast, washed down with two pots of tea, is the best road I can help Mrs A get back to full strength. I cant cook much but I can do a mean brekky. Tassie comes out to observe proceedings. It’s what we always used to dream about when we were on the first part of the trip without her. Just chilling out with her enjoying the sun outside the caravan. 

I got up to get something from the Zone and immediately my chair was commandeered by the small furry one. Hadn’t got the heart to shift her, so decided it was time for another ride. This time I did take the camera….

It’s such a beautiful trail I could keep going and going…but worry about Mrs A, so head back and find she is ready for a walk. Yippee! First milestone to recovery. Off we potter into the woods. It was wonderful to see her up and around again, snapping away at the birds and smiling through the effort of getting enough air down her swollen throat. We saw a few birds which only live in this part of Australia, like this red capped parrot:

And this Scarlet Robin:

Back at the Zone I decided I would try my hand at dinner, after being swept along on the wave of success of brekky. My limited imagination and culinary repotoire meant the BBQ was fired up again, some veg were roasted and some pre-cooked salmon taken out of the fridge…I know….but Mrs A was happy to not have to cook all day for a change. 

 Another good day on the road to recovery…

Day 117-119: 23-25 September – A wet and wild long weekend culminates in Mrs A’s return!

Author: Mr A

Location: Pumphrey’s Bridge to Forrestfield (Perth)

We pulled up stumps on a wet and windy Thursday morning and left the little town of Boddington for a short drive inland to our weekend camp at a place called Pumphrey’s Bridge. No prizes for guessing what’s there….

Yup…but its a bridge we won’t be driving over….mind you, our VMS navigation system wanted us to. I just updated the maps before I left Sydney on this after market 4WD navigation system – I’m not sure how they stay in business because the maps are absolutely useless compared to using free Miss Google. She of course had me detour round, as every car has had to for many years. 

I had been invited to attend a club meet of the Toyota Land Cruiser Club of WA, by the organisers – our new friends in Perth, Andy and Caroline Trenfield. I was looking forward to meeting them again, and to be honest having some human company. I was talking rather a lot to our Burmese cat, Tassie.

I was first to arrive, of course, and “Norman No Mates” here parked up and sat in the Zone watching the rain hurl itself at the windows. Soon the other club members starting arriving, all sensibly in caravans or campers given the shocking forecast for the weekend. However, the venue had been chosen not just for its falling down bridge, but it had a lovely old hall that was rented to us for our stay. I was soon mingling, and what a lovely crowd of people., I was immediately invited down for a brew with one couple, he was mid 70’s and she mid 80’s. They are both very active four wheel drivers and gad about in their caravan having a blast. Several other club members were in their late 70’s or early 80’s, and I just was so blown away by how “young” these people are. Is there a direct correlation between owning a caravan and longevity? I bloody hope so! 

We trooped into the hall and Caroline let me light the fire. Little does she know my history….but thats another story. We soon had a roaring blaze, the wine was opened and food was cooked and shared. What a great atmosphere. It’s so depressing to think that you need to behave a certain way when you get older. I watched a “ladies shooters” event kick off. They were sure having a lot more fun than many much younger people I’ve hung out with! Of course I had to show the girls how its done…

A projector was produced and we watched Bran Nue Dae, the 2009 Australian movie with a very young looking Jessica Mauboy, Missy Higgins, and Ernie Dingo doing his thing. The comments from the audience had me in tears of laughter on several occasions. It was hilarious and a cracking evening. The club members supposedly recognised every shot of old pub and stretch of dusty road, and if they didn’t, they just made it up I reckon. 

The weekend carried on in similar vein: eat, drink, laugh, repeat. It was a mainly indoor event given the very ordinary weather, but it was very cosy in the Zone at night with my personal hot water cat. She seemed OK holed up in the caravan, with regular brushes and cuddles, and the occasional brief night time exploration when it wasnt raining. 

All too quickly and it was Monday morning and time to head back to Perth, and the Discovery Parks caravan park adjacent to the airport, ready to meet Mrs A off the plane.

And here she is, looking far too glamorous for someone who has just travelled for 24hrs. 

\Wow…so great to have her back. And someone else is pretty happy as well…

Now that is a happy look…honestly….and determined to plant herself in the middle of unpacking…just to make sure there’s no ignoring going on. 

Day 114-116: 20-22 September – (Australia) Quality time with a Burmese in Boddington

Author: Mr A

Location: Mandurah to Boddington

Well WA is certainly getting us back for all those months of blue skies in the Kimberley. Three consecutive days of solid rain, gale force winds and temperatures almost in single figures at night, have meant some very quiet times holed up in the Zone with my little furry mate, Tassie our Burmese cat.

Heading off from Mandurah after nearly a week there. I was ready to move on and Tas wasnt so keen on going for walks with all the activity around on the caravan park. Somewhere more bushy was called for. I have been kindly invited to the Perth Landcruiser Owners Club meet this weekend and decided to head out towards the venue for that.

The trip started well, climbrting up though the forested hills south of Perth, but then, a warning light pops on. Now, I have been bragging that the cruiser has done 12,000 plus km from Sydney with not a spot of bother, and given I’d just put it through a major service, I was a little peeved. It turned out to be the indicator for a fuel filter complaining about that mucky diesel its been forced to drink from those out of the way fuel stations up north.

A quick phone call to Mandurah Toyota revealed that the fuel filter doesn’t appear on the standard checklist, even for a major service – a trick for the novice bush driver like myself. I asked when they could look at it, explaining I was travelling through and on a bit of a timetable, but reconciling myself to the Sydney answer of “Oooh we’re really busy at the moment, how about the second Monday after the next leap year mate”. But no, the Mandurah answer was “Right now sir if you’d like”. I was gobsmacked and headed back into town, dropping the caravan at the ever helpful Mandurah Caravan park on the way.

I was greeted by a smile and “Ah…fuel filter sir?” Did I look that much like a stranger? I guess. I was settled down by a very perky young thing who made me a hot chocolate and generally fussed over my well being. This was amazing, and actually exactly the same quality of customer experience I had at Perth City Toyota and Geraldton. Talk about chalk and cheese from Mosman Toyota in Sydney who have provided me over nine years with the Faulty Towers model for the car service industry. (Perhaps my younger readers will need to Google that reference!). I popped into the office of the young service manager and recounted how amazed I was at the terrific service.

An hour later and I was back on the road, complete with Mandurah Toyota cap to complete the experience…bless them.

I collected the caravan and noticed hot chocolate foam all round my nose. My opinion of the service manager shot up even further when I realised how well he did at apprearing to take a man seriously with his last drink splattered round his straggly goatee.

Off we went back to Pinjarra, and climbed up into the jarrah forests once more. It really was a lovely drive, the road winding though the trees and the occasional shaft of sunlight bringing the colours into sharpness. After my recent eye test I had got a Specsavers Special and a new pair of glasses and sunnies for an outlay of $75. You wont be seeing photos of them but the scenery sure looks sharper!

We arrived in the small town of Boddington mid afternoon and headed to the Memorial Park where good old WikiCamps had recommended a free camp getting 4 stars. It really was a lovely spot, given it was in a town, with a view of the river, toilets a short walk away, and an occasional bit of free town wifi when no one else was on it.

Then the rain started and basically hasn’t stopped since. Two solid days and we’ve barely left the van, which isn’t too onerous given I have all the necessary ingredients for a enforced inside stay: a warm snuggly cat, endless choice of T2 teas, some junk food, and plenty of digital content to consume on video and Kindle! Oh..and did I mention the very warm, cosy, snuggly cat?

It’s time to hit the road once again…

Days 107-113: 13-19 September (Australia) – One small cat arrived; one only slightly larger still away

Author: Mr A

Location: Mandurah, 70kms south of Perth

If you are not one for cute cat photos, then I suggest you move to the last paragraph of this post rather quickly.

Last week our beloved Burmese cat, Tassie (or Miss T to her friends) was packed off by her loving step-parents Rosemary and Richard, for her flight from Sydney to Perth, a not incesequential flight time of 5 hours. A number of other anxious fur parents were waiting for those crates containing our loved ones to be unloaded and distributed amongst us. It was the 13th – I am superstitious. 

After what seemed an age she was delivered in her little yellow crate (sorry no pictures was so stressed I forgot!) and had arrived safe, in need of a brush and a cuddle, but otherwise in good spirits. Once I had her installed in the Zone, her tail was up, water was drunk, food was consumed at a rate of knots, and the brand new litter tray christened. All the boxes ticked. 

She has been away in the caravan with us a few times before, so familiar smells put her at ease, and she was soon resting up. She does a lot of that, around 23 hrs a day by my estimate. Well she’s no kitten any more, ageing gracefully at 13. We left the Discovery Parks site by the airport, which was pretty good actually, and headed south to Mandurah, Perth’s second largest city and growing fast. We rocked up at Mandurah Caravan Tourist Park, and were guided into our tight spot (site 13….) where we stayed for 6 nights. 

The days have flown past, with plenty for me to do, mostly cleaning and maintenance on the car, caravan and bikes. Miss T has adjusted pretty well, enjoying the ever changing view from the Zone’s big windows.  Birds, dogs, ducks and a miniature horse (yes you read that right), all have occupied her from the viewing platform of the queen bed. Occasionally she even ventures to the door to keep an eye on things and make sure all is in order. 

We have discussed sharing the housekeeping load, but bed making was frankly dismissed with a haughty shrug.

To be honest, life with a cat in a caravan is pretty good. No heating up a hot water bottle, no need for comedy programmes as she attempts various improbable manoeuvres to find the sunniest spot in the Zone.  Mind you, I have been relegated to Chief Brusher,  Tempting Treats Chef, and the queen bed doesn’t seem quite as roomy now. Yes that’s me buried at the back, one hint of a photographic opportunity and I’m toast. 

Now you may think that’s a grumpy look…and well…it often is. For instance if the temperature falls below 28.5 degrees (yes centigrade)  in the Zone (thank goodness for the insulation), approporiately chilled freshwater has not been added to her bowl in the last 15 minutes, the Coles roast chicken isn’t basted quite to her liking, or heaven forbid the mayo forgotten. The latter requiring at least 7 minutes brushing to restore the honour of her deigning to sit on my lap. 

Just one more photo then I promise I will stop. I came home from shopping today and couldn’t find her. Searched everywhere and anxiously ran through my locking up process – did she escape somehow? All the windows have strong fly nets, no escaping there. Now in an 18 foot 6 caravan you’d think there was only so many places a cat can make you work to find them. But really, she had me going. Finally, I saw my thick goosedown, winter sleeping bag by my bed, having omitted to pack it away after sorting out yesterday. I went to lift it up, and it felt unusually heavy. She had climbed right inside. 

Now, I admit the sun isn’t shining today, but its 23 degrees for goodness sake. 

So now let’s turn to Mandurah, and some impressions of this place I’d frankly never heard of. Well its not a wine region. I’ve done some cycling around, and super impressed with the dedicated infrasctucture for riders. Paths are everywhere, along beautiful foreshore, canals and lakes, which Mandurah is graced with in abundance. 

The marina area is very swish, restaurants line the waters edge, boutique shops are open for business, it was really buzzing, even on a Monday. 

The canal side housing looks tempting, and a friend assured me that with the highest mortgage default rate in the country, bargains can be had! 

However, you move away from this area and it soon looks pretty shabby. I was warned to keep alert, I checked the crime stats,  Mandurah has the highest number of robbery reports recorded in the greater Perth area. I’ve certainly locked everything up tight at night. 

One of the great things about the caravan we like over our camper trailer is that security of being able to lock all the external hatches and the door. Mind you I do have that fearsome looking Burmese on guard. Imagine coming face to face with that look on a dark night. If they can wake her….